New Zealand has declared the Proud Boys, the far-right American group that played a key role in the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to be a terrorist organization, making it illegal for New Zealanders to participate in or support its activities.
There was no evidence that the group was operating in New Zealand, but its activity has been observed in Australia and Canada, which designated the group a terrorist organization last year.
New Zealand’s prime minister can designate groups terrorist entities if they have carried out at least one terrorist act, and the government believed the Proud Boys’ involvement in the Jan. 6 attack was “consistent with the definition of a terrorist act,” it said in a statement from June 20. It said the group’s “extreme right-wing ideology is founded on racist and fascist principles” and that it had shown a consistent fondness for violence.
The New Zealand government also classified the Base, a separate American white supremacist group, as a terrorist organization in a statement from June 20. It called the group a “neo-Nazi, accelerationist, paramilitary, survivalist group both planning for and intending to bring about the collapse of the U.S. government” and said it had tried to expand into Australia.
“These are white supremacist terrorist groups, and we don’t believe, and I don’t think New Zealanders believe, that any New Zealander should be enabling and supporting them,” the police minister, Chris Hipkins, said Thursday, according to Stuff, a news outlet in New Zealand.
Though the groups were not known to be active in New Zealand, the country has been on high alert for extremism since a man espousing white nationalist hatred shot and killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019. The attack was not directly associated with a specific group, but the gunman was steeped in the language of online extremism.
The New Zealand government described the Proud Boys’ techniques as “cryptofascist,” shrouding white nationalist tropes with obfuscation, humor and irony to offer its members plausible deniability and increase its appeal to “mainstream” or “normal” people. Underneath the layers of disguise, the group embraces violence against its perceived political enemies, the government said.
White nationalist groups have increasingly been identified by governments as threats in recent years. In 2020, the Trump administration designated the Russian Imperial Movement, an ultranationalist group based in Russia, a terrorist organization, the first time the United States applied the label to a white supremacist group.
The United States has not classified the Proud Boys or the Base as terrorist organizations. But more than 40 members of the Proud Boys have been indicted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, including several of its leaders, who face charges of seditious conspiracy.
A New York Times investigation showed that members of the group moved in a coordinated fashion, riled up other protesters and directly joined in the violence, playing an aggressive role in several of the Capitol breaches. Prosecutors have said the Proud Boys began planning the assault as early as Dec. 19, 2020; lawyers for the Proud Boys have denied that they conspired to attack the Capitol.